Who'd have thought choosing a yoga mat could be so complicated...?
So I am no expert on yoga mats.. .just to make that clear, but as a yoga teacher, I often get asked by students "what yoga mats would you recommend...?"
With this boom in the yoga & wellness industry, there are so many mats out there to choose from... and yes, it is confusing. There are so many different types, shapes and sizes and factors to take into account. Where do you start?
So I thought I'd write this little piece on the yoga mats that I've tried and tested over the last year and share with you my two (well, three) favourites!!
When I say ‘tested', I did my research and I have really put them to the test! In extreme climates with some serious use. These mats have survived hours and hours of yoga a day and travelled with me to Sri Lanka, Goa, Fuerteventura and multiple retreats in different climates. They certainly have had a work out! These mats have had a good 6 months worth of use and as the saying goes... "blood sweat and tears" (yes Yoga can make you cry... in a good way! Ha Ha!)
I would say that when purchasing a yoga mat there are some key questions you need to ask yourself, which we'll come to later in this blog, but you may find this useful when searching for your next mat (or maybe your very first yoga mat).
So here they are:
I was about to embark on a months Yoga Teacher Training in Sri Lanka and I needed a mat that had good grip, comfort and durability. Knowing the days were starting at 6.30am and finishing at 8.30pm, 5.5 days a week for a whole month, I needed something that was going to support me through this. Support my knees after 4-5hrs of physical yoga practice a day. Give me the grip I needed for those continuous sun salutations day in day out. I knew my current yoga mat was just not going to cut it... we were going to be practicing in an open outdoor shala in the jungle and 29 degree, humid heat. So it needed to be able to take the heat and sweat, and not become slippy in these conditions.
So I did my research, especially having having had lots of yoga mats over the 18 years I have been practicing yoga.
Thats when I found the Eco Everyday Yoga mat from Yoga Matters. I was very kindly gifted this mat when I reached out to enquire about their mats for my trip.
It ticked all the boxes. Firstly the comfort, I never needed to double mat (which I am a fan of, to support those knees). Despite the heat and humidity (...and sweat!) it kept its grip, 90% of the time - which to me was pretty impressive in that sort of heat.
The best bit was… the mat was made from sustainably harvested natural tree rubber, recycled material and 99% latex free. Recyclable and biodegradable.
The mat was reversible and had two different textures and surfaces to choose from (also useful when in constant use). The 4mm thickness was perfect, not too thick to become a hindrance in balancing poses and for practicing on hard surfaces (the shala had a hard wooden floor and my room had a ceramic tiled floor), so it worked perfectly.
You can feel the quality of this yoga mat and it is worth every penny!
For those of you that appreciate colour, this mat comes in a great selection. Mine was chosen for me, but became my new favourite yoga colour!
So thats the positives, and with everything there are always two sides to the coin... I wouldn't like to use the word negative's, so I am going to call this 'the flip side'. It was heavy, weighty and was not the ideal mat to travel with... in fact it's weight was 2.5kg and yes I had to do some jiggling in my suitcase and luggage as a result. I also found the dye/colour transferred onto my feet… but, don't forget, I was in 29 degree heat and using my mat everyday for a whole month. However this reduced after time and they do advertise that due to the natural material this product colour does change and there is a strong rubber smell at first.
After researching eco friendly durable and grippy mats, that I could travel with, I was kindly gifted two mats from ecoYoga. The ecoYoga Jute Mats and the travel mat version ecoYoga Jute Mat lightweight. Having never used a travel yoga mat before, because I was always concerned about the thinner material (and lack of cushioning), I was intrigued to try out this 2mm mat. I did use a mat underneath for padding, but his mat travelled with me to Goa for 14 days, Fuerteventura (for one of our Surf & Yoga Retreats) and another 14 days in Sri Lanka (on our recent Surf & Yoga Adventure in March). So it's travelled to say the least!!!
This mat was perfect for travelling and transporting. It folded neatly into my suitcase and weighed 1.1kgs (2.5lbs), so very lightweight. They even do a super thin version (1mm), as well as an extra thick 6mm version.
The rough texture of these mats was new to me and not like any other mat I had previously used. At first I wasn't sure I would get on with the texture, but now, I don’t think I could go back to the smooth or soft finish I’d been used too. The grip this texture provides is amazing, especially in standing and balancing poses. The feeling under the sole of your feet is so grounding and my little feet look forward to making contact with this tactile texture when I step onto the mat for my practice. It might not be for everyone I am sure but it's my new best friend!
Again like the previous mat, the best bit is of course is, the eco friendliness. This is why I chose both these mats. This mat is made from pure 100% rubber (does contain latex) with a hessian fabric/rubber mix on the top to give it texture. The hessian fabric mixed with the natural rubber gives the combined benefits of the cloth and sticky mat. This is by far the most grippy mat I have ever used and I think I am a complete convert.
This mat is also made in the UK from sustainable/plant based materials, suitable for vegans, machine washable, biodegradable, ethical and… (yes there’s more) they come in 7ft long version too.
So unless you don’t like this sort of texture… I don’t think you could fault this product!
I use the The ecoYoga Jute Mat 4mm version for my everyday use, teaching in my yoga classes and this mat is my first choice and comes with me, if I don’t need to worry about weight or travelling too far (as I love the cushioning for my knee’s)
Choosing a yoga mat check list:
Frequency - How often will you be practicing?
Style - What type of yoga / exercise will you be practicing?
Where - Where will you be practicing (& do you need to travel with your mat)?
Sustainability - Are sustainable, eco friendly and ethically sourced materials important to you?
Budget/Cost - How much are you willing to spend?
How often will you be practicing?
If you are practicing regularly then you need a mat that will survive wear and tear (be prepared to spend some money to get a mat with good quality materials that will last). As well as this you may want to consider the comfort and thickness of the mat, but this really is personal preference.
What type of yoga / exercise will you be practicing?
If you are practicing hot or more active style yoga, or in hotter climates, where sweat is going to be a factor, you need a mat with good grip. Again the thickness of the mat might also be a consideration here. If you are practicing a more passive style yoga/exercise (Yin, Restorative, Nidra) then there are a variety of thicknesses out there (for comfort and support) and you won’t necessarily need so much grip.
Where will you be practicing (& do you need to travel with your mat)?
If the surfaces you will be practicing on are hard and solid materials, then you may want to consider the thickness of your mat. Also as above, for hotter climates I would recommend a mat with grip, but also you may need to consider the weight and be able to transport it easily. So this is where the travel mats come into play. You can often use a studio mat from the venue (if travelling on a retreat or someone where they do yoga classes) to double up for cushioning and comfort. To save you travelling with a heavy mat.
Are sustainable, eco friendly and ethically sourced materials important to you?
There are lots of great companies and options out there, but be prepared for this to add to the price. A small price to pay in my opinion and worth every penny!
How much are you willing to spend?
This is some times the thing that causes the first obstacle. Just remember… you pay for what you get. Often the more expensive the product, the better the quality. So if you don’t want to spend too much, then be prepared to compromise on quality (wear and tear, grip and comfort). If you’re open to parting with some cash then you are more likely not to regret your purchase, as long as you do your research, your mat will last longer.